A HOSPITAL trust paid out £660,000 in management consultants’ fees in just two months amid a bitter industrial dispute over plans to slash medical secretaries’ wages, union leaders claimed.
Unison has slammed the debt-ridden Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust’s payments to Ernst & Young in October and November.
It says the Wakefield-based trust, which is seeking to impose pay cuts of up to £2,800 on 300 admin staff and clerical staff, has now paid the company a staggering £3.3m over the past 12 months.
Trust managers say, however, that it is “misleading and inappropriate” to compare the Ernst & Young costs against a small aspect of a long-term plan to reduce debt and improve efficiency in the organisation.
Unison says the trust is seeking to save £630,000 by axing 70 administration and clerical jobs and cutting the pay of another 300 staff by “down-banding” them. Its members, and those of Unite, staged four days of strike action last month in protest at the job and pay cuts.
Unison branch secretary Adrian O’Malley said: “In the very month that hundreds of our members were taking strike action against cuts in their pay, the trust handed over another £240,000 to Ernst & Young and £420,000 the month before.
“They say the trust financial position means that pay cuts must be made, but the money they propose to save in pay cuts in one year has been given to Ernst & Young in the last two months.
“The £3.3m they have given Ernst & Young is equivalent to five years’ savings they will make from cutting our members’ pay.”
Mr O’Malley added: “By continuing to throw money at Ernst & Young while at the same time trying to bully our members into taking pay cuts, the trust is treating its loyal workforce with contempt.
“If they can continue to find so much money for Ernst & Young there is clearly no need for the pay cuts.
“This news will stiffen the resolve of our members in fighting the pay cuts. We are not prepared to sit back and have our pay decimated while the trust hand over millions to a multi-national company.
“We call on the trust to withdraw the pay cuts or face further strike action in the new year.”
The trust’s finance director, Robert Chadwick, said Mid Yorkshire was making progress but warned that it still faced a “major financial challenge” and was having to explore all opportunities to combat this.
“It is not uncommon for organisations with significant challenges to engage relevant advisers,” he said.
“Ernst & Young have supported the trust in developing strong financial governance systems and identifying and developing opportunities to meet annual national efficiency requirements across many aspects of the trust. In the current financial year, this is £24m and plans to deliver a similar amount in 2013-14 are under development.
“In addition to plans to deliver the 2013-14 national efficiency target of four per cent, which is around £24m, the trust is also required to make good underlying deficits from previous years.
“The trust is totally committed to providing safe, sustainable services which ensure a good patient experience.
“To do this, the way these services are provided will need to change, with all opportunities to increase efficiency, remove waste and transform service delivery taken, at the same time minimising the impact on our staff.
Mr Chadwick added: “The support and expertise provide by Ernst & Young to this major challenge has been invaluable and the trust is well on course in achieving its objectives.
“To compare the costs of Ernst & Young against a small aspect of this wide-ranging long-term plan is misleading and inappropriate.”
Earlier this week, Unison revealed that the Mid Yorkshire trust had given medical secretaries a Christmas Eve deadline to sign up for pay cuts or face the prospect of losing their jobs.
One Pinderfields Hospital secretary, who didn’t want to be named, said: “This is the trust’s way of saying ‘Merry Christmas’.”